Rubbing Your Dry Eyes: Helpful or Harmful?

Apr 18, 2022

When your eyes feel dry (especially with the spring allergy season), it can be tempting to remedy your discomfort by rubbing them with your hands. But is this habit helpful? Read on to see why people rub their eyes and why it can cause more harm than good. 

Why do people rub their eyes?

For people living with dry eye syndrome, itchy, burning eyes can be irritating and chronic. Rubbing your eyes triggers glands that release tears and oil that coat the eyes. This layer of moisture prompts the temporary alleviation of symptoms. However, rubbing your eyes also releases histamines, which make the eye itchier and breed even more rubbing.

Itchy eyes may also result from allergies and eye infections, like conjunctivitis. It is especially important not to touch your eyes if you have a contagious infection because doing so can spread it to others.

Constant rubbing can lead to broken blood vessels, causing eyes to look bloodshot and dark undereye circles to become more prominent. Tugging on the sensitive skin around the eyes also produces more fine lines and wrinkles in the eye area. However, the risks of rubbing your eyes are much more than cosmetic. 

The downsides to rubbing your eyes

Rubbing your eyes can:

  • Spread germs from your hands and face to your eyes. In fact, one of the most important health guidelines during the peak of COVID-19 was to avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with your hands. Infections, viruses, and bacteria can all spread this way.
  • Introduce debris from your hands and lashes to your eye. When you have debris in your eye, your first instinct may be to try to rub it out, but this could scratch your cornea. Instead, try eye drops or a saline solution to flush it out. If you wear contacts, remove and rinse them properly.
  • Lead to vision problems. Rubbing your eyes with too much force or frequency can cause thin corneas, which may lead to keratoconus. Keratoconus occurs when the cornea becomes cone shaped, distorting vision and increasing sensitivity to light. 
  • Worsen preexisting conditions, such as progressive myopia or glaucoma. Rubbing increases pressure inside the eye, heightening the chance of retinal detachment, nerve damage, or vision loss for people with these conditions. 

Stay comfortable with quality dry eye care

The risks of rubbing your eyes outweigh its short-lived benefit. If you are suffering from dry eyes, dont seek relief from rubbing. For quality dry eye care, schedule an appointment with Columbus Laser and Cataract Center. Our experts tailor a treatment plan by using our LipiView® imaging and diagnostic tool to determine your unique needs. Our LipiFlow® treatment targets the eyes meibomian oil glands to improve the symptoms of dry eye and keep your condition from progressing. 

If you are ready to get the relief you deserve, call us at (614) 939-1600 today!